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How Working from a Place of Rest Led to Conference Time and Python

February 07, 2024
By Sophia Berger, class of 2025

Student life dramatically changed when Rockbridge Academy implemented Conference Time at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Now, all students in grades seven through twelve enjoy a 30-minute period after the 20-minute lunch break and 15 minutes set aside for recess, mentoring, or service. Conference Time was designed for students to be used as a built-in study hall, an opportunity to make or attend clubs, and an ideal meeting time with teachers. In the past, students could only meet for clubs and with teachers during lunch, which would take away time that could be spent with friends, eating, or recharging for the upcoming classes. With the development of Conference Time, students can enjoy more freedom and opportunities to connect with others from different grades and stages of life. 

According to Mandy Ball, Upper School Principal of Rockbridge Academy, one of the inspirations behind Conference Time was the idea of “working from a place of rest,” one of Rockridge Academy's core values. She went on to say that this designated time in the school day allows for students “to do things necessary for flourishing and not just surviving.” The administrators hope that Conference Time allows students to experience a break from the busy school day and the ability to expand their own areas of interest through clubs. 

Students have the option to use Conference Time as a free period for taking a break during which they can decide for themselves the wisest way to manage their time. This could include using the time as a study hall, which was one of the main reasons for its implementation, so that students have the daily opportunity to relieve work from their busy schedules. The time can also be used to meet up with teachers, which I assure you can be very helpful when answering last-minute questions before a Chemistry test! In addition to using it for school related activities, it can be used to simply take a break by chatting with friends, drawing, or perusing the library. Conference Time gives students more freedom, yet also allows them to practice time regulation. 

Conference Time has been instrumental in the growth of clubs which, in turn, allow students to grow themselves in ways that differ from their academics. Rockbridge now boasts over 15 unique clubs for students in the dialectic and rhetoric years (7-12). These clubs give students the opportunity to bond over hobbies and interests that might not otherwise be covered in the Rockbridge curriculum, allowing friendships to flourish regardless of age differences. These clubs span topics such as sports, food, art, and communal prayer time, all working to make Rockbridge a more well-rounded learning environment. 

A new development for Conference Time this year is a secondary rhetoric Python programming elective which takes place during Tuesday and Thursday Conference Times. This rhetoric elective is open to students in the calculus math track and taught by upper school teacher, Daron Lawing. Mrs. Ball said that the school has been trying to include a secondary elective for some time now, but it was difficult because of the early dismissals for sports on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She stressed that this elective is a pilot intended to test whether students will be able to handle another elective in their busy schedules.

Many students were excited about the programming option and its reflection of the growing STEM programs at Rockbridge. Python was chosen because it shows the application of math to the real world and how the realms of math and language intersect. Mrs. Ball also made the important clarification that, just like all Rockbridge science classes, the goal of this program is “not STEM for STEM’s sake but for looking at all of God’s creation.” This elective gives students the chance to learn the basics of coding and to further explore the unique designs of our Creator. 

The entire development of Conference Time has been a blessing to the Rockbridge community, allowing growth in every area of the school and providing the ability for students, as well as staff, to have a more communal and holistic school experience. Through these changes, Rockbridge students have benefited from the freedom to participate in clubs, new electives, and a quiet break from the day which allows for a healthier learning environment where students can truly work from a place of rest. 

Sophia Berger (class of 2025) is in 11th grade and currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper, The Rockbridge Reporter. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing the flute, and going on walks.

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